Researchers have found a Minoan bronze mirror in an intact Late Bronze Age tomb at the archaeological site of Hala Sultan Tekke on the southeast coast of Cyprus. This mirror, dated to around 1300 BCE, is a unique piece in the funerary context of this Cypriot port city.

The ancient city of Hala Sultan Tekke flourished between 1630 and 1150 BCE and was strategically located next to a protected bay of the Mediterranean Sea, making it an important center for trade and export of coveted goods at the time.

Recent excavations in the city’s extra-urban necropolis have unearthed several intact tombs that have shed light on funerary practices and cultural connections of its inhabitants.

Map of Hala Sultan Tekke with neighborhoods 1-4 and zone A, including the areas of the old excavations
Map of Hala Sultan Tekke with neighborhoods 1-4 and zone A, including the areas of the old excavations. Credit: Muwafaq Al-Bataineh, Teresa Bürge and Peter M. Fischer / Oxford Journal of Archaeology

One of these tombs, called Chamber Tomb XX, contained the remains of four individuals, including a young woman, and a total of 264 funerary objects, many of them imported from various cultures of the Aegean, Crete, Egypt, and the Levant. Among these objects are Mycenaean and Minoan ceramics, gold jewelry, ivory, and glass, as well as the bronze mirror.

The mirror, measuring between 11.2 and 11.4 centimeters in diameter and weighing 156 grams, exhibits typical features of mirrors produced in the Aegean during the Late Bronze Age, suggesting it was manufactured in a workshop probably located in Crete.

Only one other similar mirror is known, previously found in tomb 66 at Enkomi, in eastern Cyprus, indicating that these Aegean-origin objects were very scarce on the island.

Orthophotography of chamber tombs VV, XX and YY during excavation
Orthophotography of chamber tombs VV, XX and YY during excavation. Credit: Andreani Papageorgiou / Oxford Journal of Archaeology

The presence of this Minoan mirror in Tomb XX of Hala Sultan Tekke reveals direct links between the local elite and Aegean cultures, especially Crete, during this period. This is reinforced by the large quantity of imported objects from various regions of the eastern Mediterranean found in the tomb.

Researchers note that, unlike Levantine-type mirrors, which were widely adopted in Cyprus, Aegean-type mirrors seem to have had limited impact on the island.

Mirrors, in general, are considered personal items of great symbolic value, reflecting the aesthetic tastes, values, and possibly the self-perception of their owners.

Copper alloy mirror disk discovered at Enkomi, eastern coast of Cyprus, probably from Mycenae, in the Argolid, and dated to the 14th century BC. A negative image shows the attachment system (on the frame) up close, revealing the imprint of the handle, outlined in the image above
Copper alloy mirror disk discovered at Enkomi, eastern coast of Cyprus, probably from Mycenae, in the Argolid, and dated to the 14th century BC. A negative image shows the attachment system (on the frame) up close, revealing the imprint of the handle, outlined in the image above. Credit: Laura E. Alvarez / The Trustees of the British Museum

Their presence in elite funerary contexts like this indicates they could also function as gifts or symbols of political and diplomatic alliances, as well as commercial and personal relationships between Aegean and Cypriot societies during this period of intense commercial and cultural activity.

The Minoan bronze mirror found in Tomb XX of Hala Sultan Tekke is an exceptional find that sheds light on the links and exchange dynamics between Cypriot elites and those of the Aegean during the Late Bronze Age.


Sources

Feldbacher, R., Alvarez, L. E., Miyauchi, Y., Lorentz, K., and Fischer, P. M. (2024) An Aegean Mirror From Hala Sultan Tekke, Cyprus. Oxford Journal of Archaeology, 43: 153–172. doi.org/10.1111/ojoa.12292


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